End Direct Provision

For more than 21 years, Ireland’s Direct Provision system has been a human rights scandal. Direct Provision has failed utterly to fulfil Ireland’s human rights obligations to people seeking protection here. Instead, it has been 21 years of people being hurt and marginalised, and 21 years of lives put on hold.

We are at a critical moment. The current Government’s commitments to finally end Direct Provision are welcome. But we still have a long way to go to ensure it delivers on these commitments. Direct Provision has to be fully and finally ended, and the proposed alternative must protect people’s human rights.

The real test will be how these commitments are implemented, and how people within the system until then have their rights upheld. Direct Provision has continued through more than 21 years of successive governments and, until it ends, thousands of people will remain in a system the Government has admitted is not fit for purpose.

What is Direct Provision?

Direct Provision was established in 2000 and is Ireland’s system of state provided accommodation and other basic necessities to people seeking international protection. DP centres are mainly hostels, hotels and other accommodation owned and run by private companies for profit, paid for by the Government.

DP was designed as a short-term emergency measure. Instead it has lasted more than 21 years. People were meant to spend no longer than six months while their asylum application was processed. Instead, they are trapped in limbo, often for years. Many are in overcrowded conditions, sharing bedrooms and bathrooms with strangers, lacking dignity and privacy.

The living conditions, institutionalised regime and lack of appropriate support services are unacceptable for anyone, especially for such long periods of time. It is particularly harsh for families, children, people who have experienced trauma, sexual violence or torture, and other vulnerable people.

DP centres are often in isolated locations far from local communities. The isolation and hopelessness can damage physical and mental health and hinders people’s ability to restart their lives once recognised as refugees. For torture survivors, it can severely compromise their rehabilitation.

Direct Provision and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown in a truly brutal way just how inhumane Direct Provision is, and why the system urgently needs to end.

People in DP have faced this crisis in settings which make ensuring their health and wellbeing all the more difficult. The institutionalised regime and congregated settings have meant they have faced additional barriers to being able to adequately protect themselves, including taking the key preventive measures advised by the Government.

Social distancing is simply not possible when strangers share bedrooms, bathrooms and living spaces.

Rapid spread and increased risk of infection within crowded centres remain of major concern until the pandemic has ended. Urgent and effective measures are needed right now to protect the lives and well-being of those in the Direct Provision and emergency accommodation system.